Oregon botanizing

Somehow, Leonard is able to see the most interesting plants while we are speeding down the highway at 60+ mph. I don’t know how he does it. We had just passed this meadow when he asked us to stop and go back.

This meadow was filled with hundreds of little white flowers. Do you see them? Me neither, much less at 60 mph. But once we stopped, this flower (below) immediately came into view. One of my absolute favorites, cat’s ears! There are two species in Oregon that look very similar, Tolmie’s cat’s ear (Calochortus tolmiei) and the elegant cat’s ear (Calochortus elegans). Apparently C. elegans has hairs all the way to the edge of the petals while C. tolmiei doesn’t (DeCamp, Kierstead Nelson, and Knorr 2017). Based on that description, I would call this C. elegans.

-Edit 6/18/2022: Other sources say the complete opposite about the hairs on the flowers (e.g., Turner and Gustafson. 2006. Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press. Portland, OR) AND OregonFlora says the plants at that local are actually C. tolmiei. I have the distinct feeling that misidentification abounds in this genus.

We have Tolmie’s cat’s ear growing across the street in the forest back at home, but not quite in this number. Just a plant here and there. Sadly, they don’t like our yard. I wish I could grow them. But, here in this meadow, there were hundreds, maybe thousands. I would have stayed there for hours snapping more photos. We actually ended up seeing this wildflower over and over on the trip, almost to the point that I stopped noticing them. Almost. I’ll probably drop in several more pictures of cat’s ears over the next few posts, so don’t be surprised.

Also in this meadow were hundreds of dwarf larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) along a creekbed. This was another flower that we saw everywhere over the next few days. Sadly, I was never able to get my camera to focus on them properlyu. This is one I want to try growing in my yard, so I am going to have to look to see if any nurseries have seed for sale.

I have a thing for plants in the genus Lomatium, aka desert parsley or biscuitroot. There were at least a couple species here. However, I am terrible at telling them apart. Based on flower form, color, and location as noted in OregonFlora, my best guess is that this is Cook’s lomatium (Lomatium cookii) broad-fruit lomatium (Lomatium triternatum). I love the odd little, yellow floral umbellets it throws out from the central, main cluster of flowers. They are almost like stray sparks exploding out from a yellow firework display.

Here’s the other Lomatium I found in the meadow, the fernleaf biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum). It’s much taller than Cook’s lomatium. I’ve got the dark purple-brown form of this blooming back at home.

Further down the road was another meadow filled with a few hundred death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum). This is probably going to get repetitive, but I love this flower too. Great form, great color.

Heading further down the road towards the Pilot Rock trailhead, we found the surprisingly fragrant great Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium carneum. Another plant I want to try in the garden back home.

A nearby patch of Henderson’s fawn lily was the standout in this area.

But, who doesn’t love the green and purple checkered flowers of the checkerlily, Fritillaria affinis?

Up at the trailhead is this natural rock garden, where there were hundreds of spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) in bloom.

Getting closer. I wish I could grow this one in my rock garden, but they just melt over winter with all of our rain. Hard to believe that just a few hours south of home that the environment is so much drier.

If you look closely at the picture on the right, you may see one tiny blue flower of a blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia sp.) just to the left of the phlox.

A nearby patch of Indian paintbrush (Castilleja sp.).

Daggerpod (Phoenicaulis cheiranthoides).

Maybe bigseed desert parsley, Lomatium macrocarpum? I really like the grey green leaves and light yellow flowers on this one.

Yellow flowers and fuzzy grey green leaves of a biscuitroot/desert parsley at Pilot Rock, Oregon
Lomatium macrocarpum

One last flower from the Pilot Rock area before we head into California for the next post. Here is the adorable dwarf hesperochiron (Hesperochiron pumilus). Just a tiny little flower and a few leaves popping up out from the gravel.

Aw heck, one last photo of an elegant cat’s ear!

Book used for plant id: DeCamp, Kierstead Nelson, and Knorr. 2017. Wildflowers of the Trinity Alps. Backcountry Press. California, USA.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jane / MulchMaid

    You saw some beauties! We just returned from a week in Harney County near Frenchglen, and we were disappointed in the lack of wildflowers. There were a few (Castilleja sp., larkspur and a few I haven’t ID’d) at a pond overlook but that was pretty much it. It’s been such a long cool spring, even over there.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      It’s beautiful country over there. I’ll have to go over and see the wildflowers when it finally warms up!

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